When the New York Islanders packaged second- and third-round picks to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 28th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, a historical rivalry footnote was created, or duplicated: For the second year in a row, the Islanders used a pick originally belonging to their intracity rivals to add a high-skill forward.
If everything goes according to draft day hype, each forward will one day add spice to derby meetings in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Thanks to the New York Rangers' acquisition of Martin St. Louis in 2014, the Lightning held the Rangers' first-round picks in 2014 and 2015. In each season, the Rangers advanced far in the playoffs, so the pick was late in the round (28th). But in each case, the Islanders arranged draft-day deals to acquire that pick and select a prospect with some enticing offensive skill.
In 2014 it was Joshua Ho-Sang selected at 28th overall. The high-scoring OHL forward dropped lower in the draft than his skill would warrant thanks to concerns about his confident (or brash, or cocky, or outspoken) attitude, something that hasn't let up in the year since his draft. The "they sh** on me too" Isles were all too happy to take a chance on him with what would be their second pick in 2014's first round. If he ends up becoming a productive NHLer, his combination of intelligence, wit and mouth will add to the headlines in the Battle of New York.
In 2015 it was Anthony Beauvillier selected at 28th overall. Beauvillier has put up lights-out numbers for Shawinigan in the QMJHL, but he is a little smaller and high-scoring Quebec Leaguers still face more skepticism than their counterparts in Canada's other major junior leagues.
Small? Yes, but so was Claude Giroux. That's not to say Beauvillier will be a Giroux (selected 22nd overall in 2006) of course, but it does say there is room for a player of Beauvillier's size and skill to make an impact in the NHL. Several draft watchers like him and say his versatility will help him settle in as a middle-six NHL forward.
Canucks Army had particularly high praise:
The thing that excites us about Anthony Beauvillier more than anything is that he's one of the youngest members of the 2015 draft class, and already this close to being a legitimate monster in the QMJHL. He was the undisputed leader of the Shawinigan Cataractes last season, leading his team in scoring by an astounding 30(!) points. He ranked 1st among QMJHL draft eligibles in total points and primary assists, and 3rd in goals behind Timo Meier and underrated Val-d'Or centre Anthony Richard, and did it while playing without any other real high-end offensive talent.
Adjusting for age and era (which includes the fact that Beauvillier plays in the Q), Beauviller trailed only Connor McDavid, Mitchell Marner, and Dylan Strome in points per game this past season, so his ability to generate offense is unquestionably at the high end of the 2015 crop of talent.
All told, this collection of moves is a microcosm of the NHL cycle: The Rangers went "all in" with their acquisition of the aging Martin St. Louis (and this season, the younger Keith Yandle) and made it to consecutive conference finals. Now St. Louis is a free agent not expected to return.
The Isles went all in with their acquisition of Thomas Vanek two seasons ago, a move that didn't work out, but they made deals to get back into the first round. The other pick they sent to the Lightning in 2015, the 33rd overall, was the second pick acquired when they dealt Griffin Reinhart to Edmonton for the 16th overall pick in 2015. (The Isles selected Mathew Barzal, an even higher-end scorer whose drop in the draft is likely due to mid-season injury.)
What's made the Islanders-Rangers rivalry great again over the last few seasons isn't just the fact both teams are relevant in the standings again -- it's that they each have several young core players who should be part of the rivalry for years to come. Somewhere, years down the line, Beauvillier and Ho-Sang may add to the chronicles.